Wales politics

Small shops exempt from records for carrier bag levy

Carrier bags
Image caption Plastic bags will cost 5p from October

Shops with fewer than 10 staff will be exempt from keeping records on the forthcoming carrier bag levy.

Starting in the autumn, shoppers will be charged at least 5p for bags in an attempt to cut down on what the Welsh Government calls the "excessive" number of bags handed out by shops.

It says it has listened to concerns from small businesses about the administrative burden of the scheme.

Wales is the first country in the UK to introduce a compulsory fee for bags.

Fom 1 October all shops will be required to introduce the charge which is intended to reduce litter by encouraging shoppers to use their own bags.

Businesses will be obliged to keep a record of the number of bags issued and account for how the proceeds from the carrier bag charge are used, unless they employ fewer than 10 people.

But small shops will still be required by law to pass the money on to environmental causes or charities.

Environment Minister John Griffiths said: "I'm sure they will still be asked by their customers what they have done with the proceeds of the charge and they themselves will want to inform their customers what they have done with the money, the good causes that they have supported."

He said the exemption would only apply to about 10% of the bags distributed. The Welsh Government said households took home an average 273 carrier bags from big supermarkets last year.

Mr Griffiths said: "For the vast majority of the proceeds of the single-use carrier bag charge we will be able to know the use of that money.

"But we very much expect customers to challenge those small retailers because it's going to be very high profile, I think, the introduction of the charge, and I'm sure customers will want to know the use made of that money."

He suggested shops could collect the levy in a tin on the counter.

"If you're a retailer with a box of 5p coins I'm sure you could put one in the box every time somebody uses a card," he said.

Enforcement of the levy would be "reasonable" and there would be no "heavy handedness", he added.

Janet Jones, chair of the Federation of Small Businesses in Wales, said: "We are pleased the minister has listened to our concerns regarding the practical implication of this for micro businesses.

"The complexity, as well as the added time and cost, in administering this would add further pressure on small businesses which have already been struggling to cope with the ongoing effects of a recession, high fuel costs and a VAT increase.

"We hope that the enforcement of this will also be lenient to allow time for the new charge to embed, not only with retailers, but also with their customers."

Conservative environment Russell George AM also welcomed the decision.

"We are hopeful that this decision will help reduce our reliance on plastic bags and protect the natural environment, without stifling the growth of small businesses," he said.

More on this story